This excerpt, from an editorial by Betsy Bair, editorial director, Meetings Group, ran in the December 3 edition of MeetingsNet Xtra, the e-newsletter for MM and its four sister magazines. It is followed by a response from one of MM's readers.
Upon my return from a recent overseas trip, arriving at Boston's Logan International Airport, U.S. passport holders were whisked through immigration, while foreign citizens were put “on hold,” meaning they stood in a long line while Americans passed through first. And, of course, not only the individual meeting attendee or exhibitor is affected, but so are the non-U.S. exhibitor's booth and wares, which are undergoing increased customs inspections.
Excruciating waits for non-nationals wishing to enter this country for meetings could have great consequences for the health of those events that have counted on an international contingent for growth. Perhaps the Transportation Security Administration could work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now part of the new Department of Homeland Security) to expand its INS Pass program, which was created several years ago. It allows frequent international travelers to apply for a pass, much like a driver's license, which holders can then use at machines that read fingerprints in airport immigration areas and bypass many of those time-wasting lines.
Dear Editor: In your latest column you comment on a return trip from overseas where you and other American citizens were “whisked through immigration” while non-U.S. citizens had to wait. I got the impression that you think this is different, post — 9/11/01.
I've been overseas many times, and gone through three different immigration [airport systems] pre — 9/11/01 — Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami International, and Los Angeles International. Each has a specific line only for U.S. citizens that is usually quicker. I don't think this has as much to do with 9/11 as you seem to think it does. It is merely a side effect of the situation. All U.S. citizens have a U.S. passport and are in our computer system. It is very easy to verify a U.S. citizen as opposed to tourists from all over the world who come in with different types of identification that each have to be manually examined.
I normally enjoy your pieces and have discussed them with others in my office. Keep up the good work.
Manager, Exhibits & Registration
American Academy of Physician Assistants
If your international attendees have had difficulty entering the country to attend meetings, or if you have developed strategies to ease the barriers for them, please contact Tamar Hosansky at (978) 466-6358 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to MeetingsNet Xtra, visit www.meetingsnet.com.